GETTING 'ICKY' IN A FLASH IS A GIMMICK OF A DIFFERENT STRIPE
By MAXINE SHENJune 19, 2007 -- THE White Stripes are giving new meaning to hard-drivin' rock 'n' roll.
Fans can buy the duo's new "Icky Thump" album, out today, on limited-edition USB flash drives - portable memory sticks for PCs or Macs - emblazoned with Russian doll-like renderings of themselves.
Although the Stripes drives are $57.50 apiece (or $99 for the set) at whitestripes.kungfunation.com - an equivalent flash drive at Best Buy is $20 - overpaying for the privilege of owning one of the 3,333 Jack White- or 3,333 Meg White-shaped drives isn't a concern for band devotees, says Blender.com editor Mike Errico.
The person who buys these drives will be "a superfan [or a] collector, the same type of person who goes out and buys colored vinyl - or vinyl at all," he says.
They'll want to "continue interacting with the 'story' of the White Stripes - Nine Inch Nails fans have their Web sites to decipher, El-P flashed a secret code on 'Conan O'Brien' last week [and] Stripes fans have this. Or they could just get it to be cool."
Why the unusual choice of making available exactly 3,333 each of the Meg and Jack drives?
It relates back to Jack White's obsession with the number three, reflected in the duo's tricolor outfits (red, white and black), the three musical components they use (drums, vocals and either guitar or piano) and what Jack considers the three elements of song (storytelling, melody and rhythm).
But, the White Stripes aren't the first - or last - to take advantage of the USB format for releasing albums.
The Barenaked Ladies put "For the Holidays" and "Barenaked Ladies" on flash drives in 2005 and 2006 (available at werkshop.com for $29.98).
Bob Marley's classic reggae album, "Exodus," was re-released on a USB stick on June 4, and M.I.A. is scheduled to release her new single, "Boyz," on a USB wristband in the United Kingdom this month.
With the success of digital retailers like iTunes and Napster, releasing USB versions of albums just might be the way of the future.
"Judging from the direction music distribution is going - less physical manifestation, easier access at a lower price - this is a gimmick that fits squarely with the White Stripes aesthetic," says Errico.